I have a friend, a very talented, intelligent and beautiful person who was seemingly struggling to adequately explain what makes her tick. Its something I understand, and something many of us “so-called artists” have in common. She is the person who opened my mind to the musical “Passing Strange”. For her, it is THE play/musical. Heady praise, and so I sat fourth row center at the Pollard Theatre in Guthrie, Oklahoma to see a Saturday night performance in the regional debut run of this Sundance-created, Off-Broadway birthed, Broadway-polished theatrical treatise on love, art and, well, living with a love of living artistically (or not).
Sound strange? Good. Is it strange? Not at all. Is it one of those heavy, weird, experimental theatrical thingys? Not at all. Is it Rogers&Hammerstein? No, thank goodness. (nothing wrong with R&H…. we’re talking about deeper fare, however.)
I told Jerome Stevenson, the driving force as the “narrator”, the grown up version of the autobiographical author Stew, the following in my email to him after the show:
” Thank you for sharing the message (Passing Strange) w me and the audience. For knowing what we all feel is lost at times, questioned and miscategorized. In the end, we keep singing, dancing, searching and loving, it’ll be all right.
I feel as though I have had warmth breathed into my creative soul.”
And that’s what everyone in this show creates. This is a special “book” – I believe it won a Tony or something big – but it takes a special cast and crew to make it real. Everyone of them behind, beside and in front of Jerome (wow, Jennifer Teel!) is worthy of accolade because they “get it” and thus are able to “give it”. This is a shared experience on stage, a beautiful expression of following one’s undeniable path, and the at times painful, exhausting, foggy, exhilirating, empowering, exasperating and yet spiritual journey of the artist
In each of us.
The show has been extended through July 9 at The Pollard in Guthrie and if you are up for a modern day grown up lesson on love’s many faces and art’s many places, you must see Jerome Stevenson and company in “Passing Strange”.
I could say more, but right now I have a few songs in my head…